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Book covers from the Top 10 Tech Books to read. Copyright. as per publishers

10 Tech Books to read this summer

By Simon Bailie, CEO at Digital DNA

Back in March 2020 I decided to make a commitment to try and read as many books as I could during the pandemic. I initially thought I’d maybe do 2-3 by July 2020 but by June 2021 I have completed over 20 books. Granted, some I have read and some have been read to me thanks to the magic of Audible on those daily walks we all had during lockdown 1! (other audiobooks services are available)

Here’s my top 10 tech related books covering everything from the history of Silicon Valley, the rise of the social media giants, the role hype plays in powering the tech industry and the future of work.

TL:DR

  1. Valley of Genius: The Uncensored History of Silicon Valley (As Told by the Hackers, Founders, and Freaks Who Made It Boom) – Adam Fisher
  2. Smoke & Mirrors: How Hype Obscures the Future and How to See Past It – Gemma Milne
  3. The Hype Machine: How Social Media Disrupts Our Elections, Our Economy and Our Health – and How We Must Adapt – Sinai Aral
  4. A world without work – Daniel Susskind
  5. Lab Rats: Why Modern Work Makes People Miserable – Dan Lyons
  6. Behind the Screen: Content Moderation in the Shadows of Social Media – Sarah T. Roberts
  7. Targeted: My Inside Story of Cambridge Analytica and How Trump, Brexit and Facebook – Brittany Kaiser
  8. If Then: How One Data Company Invented the Future – Jill Lepore
  9. Chaos Monkeys: Inside the Silicon Valley Money Machine – Antonio Garcia Martinez
  10. Facebook – The Inside Story – Steven Levy
    1. BONUS – No Filter: The Inside Story of Instagram – Sarah Frier



Valley of Genius: The Uncensored History of Silicon Valley (As Told by the Hackers, Founders, and Freaks Who Made It Boom) – Adam Fisher

A fascinating piece of work by journalist Adam Fisher, described as the most important and authentic book about the history of Silicon Valley from the people who were actually there. It is a compilation of over 200 interviews with the hackers and founders that made Silicon Valley what it is today. VALLEY OF GENIUS takes you from the dawn of the personal computer and the internet, through the heyday of the web, up to the very moment when our current technological reality was invented. If you want to know the real stories that Valley insiders tell each other, that many of us would take for a tall tale, then this is the book you need to have on your shelf!

 

 

Smoke & Mirrors: How Hype Obscures the Future and How to See Past It – Gemma Milne

 

Smoke & Mirrors is an absolute gem of a book that you will struggle to put down. Putting many of the hyped up claims around the future to the test, Gemma Milne leaves no stone unturned when challenging the bombastic headlines about science and technology that grab the attention of investors, or convince governments to take notice.

From AI, quantum computing and brain implants, to cancer drugs, future foods and fusion energy, science and technology journalist Gemma Milne reveals hype to be responsible for fundamentally misdirecting or even derailing crucial progress.

If you are looking for a no holds barred approach to challenging much of the Hype around the future this book is your guide to doing just that.

 

The Hype Machine: How Social Media Disrupts Our Elections, Our Economy and Our Health – and How We Must Adapt – Sinai Aral

In this brilliant smart-thinking book about the power and influence of social media, Professor Sinan Aral shows how ‘hyper-socialization’ has profoundly changed us. Packed with original research conducted by Aral and his team, The Hype Machine describes the impact of social media on statecraft, politics, voting, business and public health, and shows us how to adapt our society to the hyper-socialized state the Hype Machine has wrought. This is a fascinating book that provides counterintuitive and surprising answers to some of the most hotly debated topics of our connected, digital era, as it impacts society.

 

A world without work – Daniel Susskind

 

Daniel Susskind is a renowned author and academic on the future of work. His previous book, “The Future of the Professions” looked at how technology is disrupting traditional white collar professions. A World Without Work starts by describing how new technologies have always provoked panic about workers being replaced by machines and how economists have maintained that such fears are misplaced. Susskind dismisses the scepticism and describes why the threat of technological unemployment is real. If you are curious about what the future of work could really look like, how artificial intelligence could replace humans in certain tasks, this is a must read to become better informed.

 

 

Lab Rats: Why Modern Work Makes People Miserable – Dan Lyons

 

Lab Rats is the latest piece of work from Dan Lyons, to poke fun at the current state of the workplace.  In this hilarious, but deadly serious book, bestselling author Dan Lyons looks at how the world of work has slowly morphed from one of unions and steady career progression to a dystopia made of bean bags and unpaid internships.

Personality tests. Team-building exercises. Forced Fun. Desktop surveillance. Open-plan offices. Acronyms. Diminishing job security. Hot desking. Pointless perks. Hackathons. If any of the above sound familiar, welcome to the modern economy. And that’s the ‘good’ jobs…With the same wit that made Disrupted an international bestseller, Lyons shows how the hypocrisy of Silicon Valley has now been exported globally to a job near you. Even low-grade employees are now expected to view their jobs with a cult-like fervour, despite diminishing prospects of promotion.

 

 

Behind the Screen: Content Moderation in the Shadows of Social Media – Sarah T. Roberts

 

With content moderation on social media currently a hot topic, especially when it comes to hate speech and racism, Sarah T. Roberts’ Behind the Screen gives an extensive insight into the largely unseen world of commercial content moderation. Based on interviews with workers from Silicon Valley to the Philippines, at boutique firms and at major social media companies, she contextualizes this hidden industry and examines the emotional toll it takes on its workers. Mostly invisible by design, more than 100,000 commercial content moderators evaluate posts on mainstream social media platforms: enforcing internal policies, training artificial intelligence systems, and actively screening and removing offensive material―sometimes thousands of items per day.

This revealing investigation of the people “behind the screen” offers insights into not only the reality of our commercial internet but the future of globalized labor in the digital age.

A big shout out to Paula Kennedy from Concentrix for the recommendation on this one!

 

Targeted: My Inside Story of Cambridge Analytica and How Trump, Brexit and Facebook – Brittany Kaiser

If you have watched the Netflix hit, The Great Hack, you have probably heard of Brittany Kaiser. Targeted is Kaiser’s eyewitness chronicle of the dramatic and disturbing story of the rise and fall of Cambridge Analytica. If you want to know more about the biggest data scandal of the past 10 years this is the book you must read. Kaiser reveals how a lack of sufficient national laws, lax policies by the tech giants and sophisticated marketing campaigns allowed voters to be manipulated in both Britain and the United States, where personal data was weaponised to spread fake news and racist messaging during the Brexit vote and the 2016 election. Kaiser unpacks never-before-publicly-told stories, the targeting methods CA used and gives us a ring side commentary to how they helped Trump win the 2016 election with details of the secretive meetings with the Trump campaign personnel. A bonus with this book is that the audio book is narrated by Kaiser herself which pulls you in further to the story.

 

 

If Then: How One Data Company Invented the Future – Jill Lepore

 

Cambridge Analytica may be the most famous data mining company in the world that used data to target voters, destabilise politics and accelerate disordered knowledge but they weren’t the pioneers. In fact, such practices were pioneered over 60 years ago. A long forgotten company from the 1960’s were the first to use computers to predict and direct human behavior, deploying their “People Machine” from New York, Cambridge, and Saigon for clients that included John Kennedy’s presidential campaign, the New York Times, Young & Rubicam, and, during the Vietnam War, the Department of Defence. “If Then” is a fascinating, scathing and often sobering tale of the original data mining company, The Simulmatics Corporation. Jill Lepore also details some of the missteps taken by lawmakers in the wake of electoral controversies and military failures in Vietnam that created an environment that has allowed the modern tech giants to flourish. 

 

 

Chaos Monkeys: Inside the Silicon Valley Money Machine – Antonio Garcia Martinez

Antonio Garcia Martinez is a colourful character who describes himself as ‘high-strung, fast-talking, and wired on a combination of caffeine, fear, and greed at all times. He has his fair share of Silicon Valley stories to tell including brewing illegal beer on the Facebook Campus (accidentally flooding Zuckerberg’s desk), living on a yacht in the bay, racing sports cars on the highway, and enthusiastically pursuing the lifestyle of an overpaid Silicon Valley mercenary. Chaos Monkeys charts his path from startup founder, to passing up a job at Twitter when his business was acquired and then ultimately leading the ad machine at Facebook. 

Highly entertaining and always offering genuine insight, García Martínez unravels the chaotic evolution of social media and online marketing as he tells readers HOW – and HOW NOT – to make a fortune through startups and digital marketing. From startups and credit derivatives to Big Brother and data tracking, social media monetisation and digital ‘privacy’, he shares both his scathing observations and outrageous antics, taking us on a subversive and very funny tour of the fascinatingly insular and unbelievably wealthy tech industry.

 

Facebook – The Inside Story – Steven Levy

Full disclosure, I am a fan of Steven Levy and his writing in Wired, so when this book hit the shelves, I knew it would be good. Millions of words have already been written about Facebook, but no one has told the complete story, documenting its ascendancy and missteps. Based on hundreds of interviews from inside and outside Facebook, Levy’s sweeping narrative of incredible entrepreneurial success and failure digs deep into the whole story of the company that has changed the world and reaped the consequences. It also looks at some of the acquisitions Facebook have completed, failed and successful which makes this a really great read when it comes to understanding the hyper growth of one the world’s largest tech companies. Levy’s unparalleled experience in documenting the tech world shines as he doesn’t shy from asking the tough questions. Facebook – The Inside Story is an outstanding piece of work for anyone who is interested in how the Harvard startup grew to one of the largest companies in the world and how they have come to wield so much power in our daily lives.

 

 

BONUS

 

No Filter: The Inside Story of Instagram – Sarah Frier

Ok, this is actually the 11th book but if you read Chaos Monkeys and Facebook – The Inside Story, you have to read No Filter. Much of the narrative in these three books overlap which is why if you read any of them I recommend picking the others up. 

 

Drawing on interviews with all the key figures at Instagram, No Filter vividly recreates the rise of the most successful photo app in history: from its origins in a Silicon Valley coffee shop, to its unprecedented billion-dollar acquisition by Facebook, to its founders’ dramatic clashes with their new boss, Mark Zuckerberg. Along the way, it explores how Instagram has changed society – encouraging businesses to prioritise their aesthetic above all else, forging a new economy of digital entrepreneurs, and rewiring how a generation thinks about celebrity and success.

The result is the definitive story of how a simple platform revolutionised tech, business, and popular culture. Instagram has remade us all in its image. This book reveals how.

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